I love my life as a self-employed writer. I get to make my own schedule, choose my own clients, and run the show my way. I honestly don’t think I can ever go back to working in a corporate job. Ever.
But, and let me be crystal clear about this, it’s not like I don’t have a boss. In fact, I have many bosses. Each of my clients is my boss, each project lead within a client company is my boss, my business (managing and building it) is my boss. Add on top of that all the professional and personal responsibilities I take on voluntarily (professional education, blogging, side projects, being a mom, having a life), and that schedule I get to set for myself starts to look pretty scary.
CONFESSION: I had planned to publish an entirely different post today. I was really getting into writing the second half of my two-parter on getting started as a freelance content marketer. But, I had to put the breaks on. I could have pushed through and cranked out “something,” but I realized that I just didn’t have the time to do it the way I wanted to. (Sounds like a familiar refrain. *hangs head in shame*)
Here’s the thing – when you’re a freelance writer, your schedule is a living beast that can (and probably will) mutate at any moment. Despite my strong Type-A tendencies, project management background, and magical calendaring skills, I still fall victim to the whims and wiles of my never-fully-tamed schedule.
BUT … most of the time, I protect myself from catastrophe with two super powers:
Most things will take longer than you expect.
It’s a harsh reality, but one you should go ahead and accept. Estimating the time a task will take is, in the experience of many writers, one of the toughest part of this gig. And, even when you nail your estimate, there is a whole slew of unforeseen events lying in wait to ambush your beautiful plans and turn your whole day (and week) into a mad scramble.
The solution: build in buffers wherever you can.
Don’t pack your day with back-to-back, end-to-end tasks and obligations. Make it a point to insert as much “white space” as possible. If, like me, you use calendaring to manage your tasks and time, actually put that non-working space on your calendar. Make it a pretty color. Put a smiley face on it.
Most of your buffers will get eaten up by things like impromptu phone calls, tasks that took longer than you’d planned, having to pick your sick kid up from school, etc. That’s okay. (Well, not your kid being sick. That’s the pits.) Buffer time is there to be eaten. If it doesn’t get eaten, yay. You get bonus time. The point is to have it “just in case.”
But even if you’ve made a beautiful plan and built in buffers, Life can still throw you a left hook and leave you down for the count and unable to get back on your feet. That, like having a sick kid, is also the pits. BUT … it’s not too horrible if you employ the freelance writer super power: backup plans.
This post is a kind of backup plan. I had hoped to write that other massive, epic, deep-dive post today; but life (and work) got in the way and my buffers got all eaten up. SO … this post was my fallback position, my safety net.
In a perfect world, I would have had a few posts like this queued up and ready to publish at a moment’s notice. But, this isn’t a perfect world, so I’m writing it “live.” Still, it’s taking me about a quarter of the time it will ultimately take me to write the other post, so – that helps in my time-crunched day.
Always have a backup plan. Always know the answer to the question, “If I just can’t make this happen, what will I do instead?” Give yourself options.
So – buffers and backup plans. Learn how to use them. Make them part of your freelance writer world. You’ll be less stressed and more productive. Trust me.
And now, I have to go. Those other deadlines are nipping at my heels.
PS – In case you missed the two links above, you really might want to check out this post from the archives: How to be a Freelance Writer: 5 Tools for Smart Planning and Time Management. It goes into a lot more detail & walks you through some actual tactics for wrangling your schedule into submission.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.